Thursday, August 31, 2006

Saul Bellow,Henderson the Rain King.

Saul Bellow,Henderson the Rain King. Henderson is a striving man, a failure, a bully. A millionaire strong man with broken crowns. He is "A bungled lump of humanity." A mythical Africa is the backdrop for a decaying giant and the explication of his failure.This is a book about suffering and perhaps even more the struggle - Henderson refers again and again to his capacity for striving: "It was a question of spirit, too, for when it comes to struggling I am in a special class. From earliest times I have struggled without rest."

Once again Bellow is obsessed with the decay of the flesh, with its betrayals. It's the comic tone of Vonnegut with the same vision of the absurdity of the human body. At the same time he recalls Hesse and the search to stop desire, to get off the wheel. "Only to repeat fear and desire without a change? ... Any good man will try to break the cycle. There is no issue from that cycle for a man who does not take things into his own hands."

Anyway - I identify with Henderson strongly. I feel so many of his same yearnings - at the same time grandiose and pathetic - wanting to do good while screwing up royally. I also liked what he said about reading:

"I am a nervous and emotional reader. I hold a book up to my face and it takes only one good sentence to turn my brain into a volcano; I begin thinking of everything at once and a regular lava of thoughts pours down my sides."

"When I started to read something about France, I realized I didn't know anything about Rome, which came first, and then Greece, and then Egypt, going backward all the time to the primitive abyss. As a matter of fact, I didn't know enough to read one single book."

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I was just assigned the Odyssey for school. Coincidentally I had just bought a new translation of the Iliad (Robert Fagles' translation) this summer and was about half way through it. So I put Achilles and Agamemnon down and picked up the sequel. Transitioning from one to the other is very jarring; the Odyssey is so much more like a novel and instantly engaging, while the Iliad is more clearly a spoken poem. I love the characters and the drive in the Iliad, but the story is more accessible in the Odyssey - part of the difference might be the translations (I'm reading Fitzgerald's Odyssey) but most is in the narrative and the pacing. I find myself enjoying both much more than I did as a child, which is the reverse of what usually happens when I reread a classic - often I was far more captivated when I was younger, and my older self is disappointed. Maybe this time I have a larger context to put it into and so I can connect to it more easily. Anyway, as I get deeper in to both books I'll write some more.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Trial Writely

School starts tomorrow. Rosie and Callie are watching Scrubs. Mark has woken up and refuses to go back to sleep. I knew that latte was a terrible idea. I just shut off the irrigation water so our house sits in a lake. I don't know why I want the grass to grow any longer. I'm taking biochem (not the hard one for majors), genetics, history of medicine, history of ancient Greece, and medical parasitology. I'm exited about the parasites, but it's not till Tuesday. I exhausted myself last week and I feel like a convalescent today. I lay lazily around, reading books and watching my sisters play with my boys. We don't have the truck back from the shop yet, so I'm taking the bus tomorrow. If I get to school in decent time, I'll keep taking it - save gas and get reading time to myself. I'm using this word processor that Google has. Writley - it's still in beta, but I thought I'd try it out. It's strange, I was thinking I'd like to store my docs on-line because I do so much school work on the campus computers and emailing documents as attachments is so shoddy and iffy for me, and I heard about this right afterward. I also hate losing all my word files every time I have to replace a hard drive because I either forget to back up, or my back up doesn't work. So far, I like this. It has a good spell check (great actually, better than the old version of word I use - important for me because I spell abominably) auto-save, save in word or HTML or pdf or whatever you want. I'm sending this to my book blog, just to test it out.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ron Hanson

Atticus. A prodigal son. A bit of a detective story. An expatriate community in Mexico. Mental illness/ bipolar disorder. Failed love affair. The deep love of a parent for a child, and the judgment given by both parties. I enjoyed this book. I've been trying not to read for pleasure at all, because I should be studying for the MCAT, but this was a short book.